It really needs all the help it can get.
The Nissan Kicks, a crossover that replaced the love-it-or-hate-it Juke, is an affordable and simple small SUV, but the most glaring fault in the execution of this car, at least in the US, is that its 1.6-liter four-pot is unrefined, underpowered, and is simply not good enough to tempt buyers away from class-leaders like the Mazda CX-3 and Hyundai Kona. But that could all change. The world over, the Kicks is offered with better engines, and now India has received a 1.3-liter turbo-four that produces 153 horsepower and 187 lb-ft of torque, a vast improvement on the 122 horses and 114 lb-ft of twist seen in the engine we're saddled with at the moment and the 127 hp of the 2021 hybrid model.
This new engine is a Renault unit and is fitted to the entry-level Mercedes-Benz A-Class in some countries. It's also mated to Thailand's plug-in hybrid version of the Nissan Kicks. In the new Indian variant, a six-speed manual is standard with an Xtronic CVT available. While we're excited about the possibility that this engine will make its way to our shores, we would likely also get the CVT, and in the Kicks that we currently have access to, this transmission negatively impacts refinement in a big way. Still, it's better to replace one poor component than none, and the prospect of a Nissan Kicks that doesn't wheeze going uphill or feel lethargic on the motorway is a bright one.
The Kicks is not a bad vehicle by any means, but it doesn't shine particularly bright in any department either. The infotainment system is good, the standard driver aids are impressive, and there are good options on offer, too. Plus, with pricing around $20,000 for a mid-range model, it's good value. But none of these features are groundbreaking or special to the Kicks. What it needs is a slightly more plush interior and a decent engine, which has been neglected in the recent 2021 update. If Nissan can at least give the small SUV a decent engine, the likes of Honda and Mazda won't enjoy such easy domination of the segment.